Smart Social Gaming: Why people play social games and other topics non-gamers don’t get


While those of us who write for MassivelyOP do try give you all the scientific resources we can to help you fight back against your family, friends, and co-workers who may still not get your hobby or why you may let your child participate in gaming culture, it’s not our primary function – that’d be covering and analyzing the MMO genre.

Enter, an “online resource that provides guidance, tips and expert advice for everyone to have a positive social games experience.” While I’d normally smirk and wonder who really thinks he or she has the clout to do something like that, in digging through it I found that Dr. Rachel Kowert, of The Video Game Debate fame, penned several of the top tips, including one that starts off using Quantic Foundry’s Gamer Motivation Model. That’s some clout. Let’s take a look!

Most of what Dr. Kowert writes isn’t immediately surprising for your average gamer. Of course many players enjoy social games for social and psychological fulfillment, even if those aren’t the exact words we’d normally use. However, not everyone outside of our gaming sphere understands this. When an older member of my Pokemon Go group mentioned playing various MMOs with his son and son’s friends all deployed to various parts of the word, other people in our group were fairly surprised at how obvious the choice was to get into online gaming: Online games granted him the ability to chat with people around the world quite cheaply.

Kowert also brings up the Self Determination Theory (SDT), which some of you may recall from our coverage of The Video Game Debate’s chapter on Moral Panic and how it relates to griefing. The ability to master a game’s systems, achieve a sense of independence, and connect with others are a huge factor in gamer fulfillment. While we may not be able to master our workplace hierarchy, overbearing (non-loot containing) bosses, and anti-co-worker dating policies, we can finish fulfilling those needs through games. That makes sense to us, but maybe isn’t so obvious for people outside the gaming community. In a way, it’s similar to why some people prefer to watch sports than play them: SDT indicates that simply understanding the plays and being able to predict what happens may be good enough to satisfy their psychological needs, and being with other people who think this way helps with relatedness.

Smart Social Gamers shouldn’t be seen as a one-stop site for “fixing” a crotchety grandparent’s opinion on your “waste of time” hobby, though. Not all the articles are written by researchers. Some come off as gaming PR rather than articles that look at both the positive and the negative aspects of gaming (though not all of them; Kowert herself covers sexual harassment in online games and Dr. Richard Graham talks about game time balance). However, unlike the full journal articles we tend to cover on MassivelyOP, Smart Social Gamers’ articles are quite short and written mainly for non-gamers. While Kowert’s suggestion to ease people into social games by starting them on mobile games may ruffle the feathers of your average MMO player, it does highlight the rift between core gamers and those still trying to “figure out” our hobby.

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